Does that include me? With guest Esi Hardy

Are you and your business fully inclusive?

I was introduced to my next guest at a time when I had several clients attending some of my live online events who were struggling with accessibility due to their disabilities. Thankfully, we’ve been able to accommodate their needs but this is something we could have been better prepared for so that people with accessibility issues can feel not just included but valued right from the start of their engagement.

Whilst things are improving in the area of inclusivity, there is still a long way to go and many good reasons to get on top of accessibility and inclusivity right away, as so many people don’t wish to make a fuss and end up feeling left out altogether or separate from other groups. My guest on this episode is Esi Hardy who is a speaker, trainer, writer and disability/inclusion expert who founded her company Celebrating Disability to help businesses improve their accessibility, both for employees and for guests.

I learned so much from chatting to Esi of the ways we can be more inclusive and helpful without it becoming patronising or intrusive. I honestly believe that we all miss out when there are people who feel they can not join in as well as everyone else. Whilst it may not be possible to do everything imaginable to include everyone in every way, there is so much that is easy to do and makes a world of difference to people who may otherwise feel like they are stuck on the periphery.

Esi has her own podcast called ‘Part of me’ which is all about disability inclusivity in all walks of life. You can find out more about disability inclusivity from Esi’s website CelebratingDisability.co.uk and Esi will be delighted to hear from you if you would like her to her you and your business become more disability-inclusive. Esi Recommended a book called Ripples from the Edge of Life by Roland Chesters

Next week I’m going to be trying out my first live podcast episode on LinkedIn. If you’d like to join me and my guest Jeremy Nicholas talking about public speaking and humour in presentations, we’ll be live at 10 am UK and 11 am CET on Friday 4th Dec 2020. Find me on LinkedIn and you’ll even be able to ask questions live as we broadcast, which is a first for my show… hopefully. If it goes well, I will do more. The show will go out on the same day, so if you miss it, you can still pick it up in the usual ways.

See you next time.

Transcript

John Ball
Welcome to the speaking of influence podcast with virtual business speaker presentation skills and influence coach John Ball. Remember to like and subscribe. The speaking of influence podcast is uploaded and distributed using Buzzsprout. Buzzsprout makes it really easy to get your podcast started and out to a wide audience with lots of tips and useful tools to help you on your way. If you’re interested, check the link in the show notes and start your podcast today.

Welcome to the show. I’m really happy to be joined today by my special guest who is a speaker, writer. She is a trainer as well. She is also a host of her own podcast, which is called part of me. Is that right? That’s right. Yeah, her name is Esi Hardy. She has a company called Celebrating Disability. And today we are going to be talking about what she does in her work and how she uses the tools of presentation and influence and persuasion and in what she does. So welcome to the show Esi Hardy great to have you.

Esi Hardy
Thank you very much, John, it’s great to be here. Thank you for inviting me,

John Ball
I’m really pleased to be speaking with you. And when we had our initial conversation to discuss been being a guest on the call. And I was really interested by what you do and why you did what has been your motivation. So tell us a little bit about what your company is and what led you up to doing that?

Esi Hardy
So celebrating disability is a business that supports businesses and not for profit organisations to be inclusive of disabled people. And that could be several candidates when they’re applying for roles. It could be disabled employees when they work within organisations, or it could also be sampled customers, guests and clients when they’re interacting with the business. So I support them through awareness all the way through to inclusion for confidence, and then to have the tools to competently implement strategies that will be inclusive of disabled people in that workplace culture.

John Ball
And has that been something that has been a challenge that many places not being all that inclusive?

Esi Hardy
Yeah, I think, yeah, it’s getting better. So we’re in 2020, we’re kind of edging towards the end of 2020. I don’t like to admit it, because it’s like we haven’t had a year at all. And it’s getting better. A lot of especially the more high profile, companies and corporations are beginning to really grasp what inclusion means and inclusion and equality of disabled people means and but we still have quite a far way to go with people kind of understanding the distinction between first of all diversity and inclusion, and then inclusion and accessibility.

John Ball
Yeah, these are really important areas. I mean, as a statistic, roughly what would be the percentage of people in the workforce or the potential workforce that with disabilities,

Esi Hardy
A good 50% of the workforce has a disability. So if you think one in five, one in five people have a disability, and a lot of disability. So about around 80% of disabilities acquired during the lifespan of a person and a lot of is acquired during the lifespan of a career. So people are coming into the workplace, perhaps without the disability, so they’re non-disabled when they enter the workplace. And then they might acquire a disability so they might gain a disability gain sounds a bit wiggly word for disability, but they might become disabled while they’re at work. And also, if we think about the majority of disability is hidden. And so I have a physical disability, I’m physically disabled myself, and I’m a wheelchair user. So when I’m out and about, it’s very obvious that I’m a wheelchair user because I am in a wheelchair, and I am not a very good driver. So chances are I would oppression to your door or the person standing next to you, but a lot of disability is hidden. So people and organisations sometimes misinterpret that they’re low numbers of disabled people that they’re engaging with just because they can’t see that disability. And a lot of disabled people don’t like talking about their disability because they’re worried about repercussions, as in discrimination in the recruitment stage, they’re worried about they won’t get the support they need when they’re in their business. They’re worried about not being promoted, and not being supported in the right way if they disclose a disability, so essentially, it’s detrimental to them. And a lot of people don’t recognise their disability as such, and don’t want to recognise the disability as such. There’s still a lot of stigma around disability and a lot of bias that comes from disabled people themselves. Because we all live in society. And we pick up on what everybody else says. So because of all those reasons, a lot of disabled people are not opening up to employers, or asking for the support they need, because they don’t want to. So a lot of the data that would otherwise be gathered, is not being gathered, because people don’t know how to ask them the right way. And people don’t know how to disclose in a way that they feel confident to.

John Ball
So So you are part of the solution, championing the cause to get equality to get a fair representation and parity in the workplace? What have been some of the challenges that you’ve personally experienced in this area?

Esi Hardy
Oh, where do we start? So I would say it started right back in education. So I mean, I, you know, I am nearing 40. I know. But I’m nearing 40. So I grew up in the 80s. And I went to primary school in the 80s, in the early 90s. And there wasn’t these inclusive education strategies then. and integrating disabled people with it was called in those days quotes normal children was a relatively new thing. And by normal, it’s not the word I would use non-disabled children is a relatively new thing. Therefore, and a lot of my education was secondary, because I couldn’t access the rooms, or I couldn’t access what they wanted me to do. The projects that one that we wanted to happen, and there was no education for the children as to how to, you know, interact with me. Luckily, primary school children a lot more open than older children and adults, so they just get on with it. And my mom told me that when I grew up, well, I was born in Germany and grew up in Scotland. And we moved in Scotland when my stepdad got a new job. And apparently, the school had told the children in the class on the Friday that on the Monday, there was going to be a very special child coming a very special little girl. And we would have to be very nice to her. And apparently, at the end of Monday, one of the children said to the teacher, I don’t know what’s special about her, she’s just like us. So children are a lot more accepting and a lot, they just get on with it, then adults, but as I got older, those differences, widen those barriers widens. And those opportunities got bigger and bigger. And I went to a school for physically disabled children. And the onus wasn’t on education, it was on making as in quotes better so that we could go and live in quotes an independent normal life. And so a lot of physio, a lot of quotes, independence training, and then when out so by the time I got to college, and although I had GCSEs, they weren’t at the standard that they needed to be for me to do the courses I needed to do. So in the education, I was already on the back foot by the time I went to university, and then in the workplace, workplaces again, at the time, were very much used to looking at what you’ve done and what your experiences, I was an actress. And so my experience was limited, not because I wasn’t good at what I did. And not because I didn’t get the opportunities in college, but because they couldn’t see my potential, you know, I was just the disabled girl, what could I possibly do. So I got turned down for lots of auditions, obviously, I got some drops. But a lot more of the auditions I was turned down for because of how I physically presented and the biases that those casting directors held about me. And then in the world, in the workplace as an in the office environment. And because I perhaps didn’t have the qualifications or the other candidates had. But also because of just that bias around disability in the first place. I found it very hard to secure a role. And so I become a became self-employed. And at 25 purely because it was harder to find an employment role. And I got my first employment role. I think when I was 33. I only stayed for two and a half years because by that time I liked being my own boss, and then left again and set up my own business. But the story that I’ve just told, is not unusual for a disabled person’s experience because of the prejudices and the lack of understanding about the support that a disabled person might need.

John Ball
I can well appreciate it and from everything you say, and I can see as someone who is not disabled. I can certainly see that those things have been there and maybe haven’t been in general awareness for most for many people because of not having disabilities themselves and not necessarily having somebody In the family with a disability, and, and but I have in my own family experience and a family member who has learning difficulties. And they were diagnosed quite young. And again, an invisible disability. But what I saw in the education system there even more recently is that she’s still quite young. And is that the options that she was presented for her life were very limited. They were based on still very fixed ideas about what you do when you finish school. And really none of it was actually looking at where she might have talent or ability naturally, yeah, it was all very focused on Well, this is probably the best you can hope for. And she was already about that, though. Okay, that’s not good. And as much because that got so instilled and I think, even to some degree, and this family member, her parents were kind of believed it as well, if I can see the limitations that and not just society was placing on her, but she ends up placing on herself as well realise that, yeah, like accepting this is the best I could go for. You didn’t accept that. And you’re encouraging other people not to excel and saying it can be more, you can be more you can have more. And I’m definitely glad to hear that experiences are changing. But even just seeing, not that I watch much and UK tv But from what I do see, once the may see some more inclusivity is still not that much for people with disabilities that I’m aware of.

Esi Hardy
I think you’re absolutely right. And I think you’re absolutely right with a lot of what you just said. And I think that that empowerment piece that you were talking about before with the person in your family that has a learning disability is so important to disable children and set the families of disabled children are told all the time that you know, they can’t, you’re This is the best you can hope for they’re probably going to die. So it’s a miracle that they’re still alive and all of those things. So when a disabled baby is handed to a parent, and the first thing the doctor often says is Oh, I’m sorry, your baby’s disabled, not Congratulations, you have a new baby and say from the moment, dots parents are the message to parents has been reinforced that there’s something wrong that it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be a struggle, that it’s all negative. And it’s really hard, especially when it’s a negative based practice to turn as in what can you do to turn that into your what can you do? What do you enjoy doing? What can we, you know, what do you want to achieve? How can we support you to achieve what you want to? Yes, you can rather than no, you can’t. And it’s easy for that stable person to slip into? Well, I can’t. I mean, I have lots of friends and colleagues that are still in that attitude. And I had that attitude for a very long time. And I had a mom that was very positive. Just because you’re disabled as he doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. Yes, she did send me to a special school, but she was sending me to that special school because she was told that that was the best place for me. She wasn’t told about what wouldn’t happen to my education. She was told she was essentially told that I could probably skip hop, skip and jump after five years. And because they want, you know, they think the best outcome is to be in quotes normal, but you know, what’s known? Yeah, exactly when that disabled person becomes confident with their disability, that that empowerment rarely happens. But there’s a lot that people can do in the meantime, to empower people. And, and because I went back of what you said, I forgot what your leading question was.

John Ball
I don’t even remember. But I love what you’re saying then, interestingly enough, I mean, I think those are, that’s a subject that’s really relevant to everyone, whether they realise it or not that Yeah, General systems that we grow up in, often limit us in ways that we just tend to accept because we’re told to, and that’s what we’ve been told. That’s what people say is the best for you along. And maybe just we see it more clearly in these sorts of specific situations. But I think it’s generally true. Because I think most of us grew up with these limitations and we end up placing them on ourselves and believing them to be true. They don’t when they don’t have to be. What I do want to come to with you though is that you did take things further and you dreamed of more, you decided that’s not enough for me, I want something more. And so not just from the acting stuff that you did, but you decided to go into talking about this and presenting and speaking what was your path to actually getting onto a platform and speaking?

Esi Hardy
You know what? I think you said we weren’t going to discuss acting but I think it was acting so, acting gave me confidence when I was young. So I started in drama class at school when I was 14. And I suddenly thought, oh, wow, everyone’s looking at me. This is amazing. You know, I’ve got everyone’s attention, they’re standing up, and they’re clapping, and they’re laughing. When I say something funny, this is incredible. And that, and for a lot of actors, a lot of actors are very shy people, but they come into their own when they’re on stage, because when you’re on stage, you can be someone else. So I think that was the beginning for me, and I enjoyed the fact that I had everybody’s attention. And then I can give them a message, whether it be a fictional message, or then a bit more kind of a motivational message or whatever the message was. And then so and I think every kind of role that I’ve had since acting has kind of been an A talking platform, and empowerment platform in one way or another. So I used to go into schools, and run disability awareness talks and disability awareness, training sessions for primary school children on disability awareness. And then I worked for my legal authority, where I trained social workers, and sports enable people. And then the organisation I worked for before setup, celebrating disability used to send me out and do the talking opportunities, because again, I loved being in front of people, and I would give my opinion anyway, so I think, god, she’s gonna say something anyway, let’s just let the talk in the first place. And that, you know, I just think it’s a really powerful way of delivering a message to a group of people, if you can make when you talk, if you can make it tangible, and relatable to your audience. So this is saying isn’t that, you know, as a speaker, you have to know your audience. And it’s so true, you have to tailor your talk, and pitch your talk to the audience that you’re going to be delivering it to. I’ve heard so many speakers quite recently, actually. And in networking events, and all sorts that just start without understanding their audience. So not asking the question, hands up, how many people have a marketing strategy, for example, or hands up? How many people have a product, it compared to how many people deliver service, and by gaining and maybe asking a few more general questions. And by gaining that knowledge, you can then pitch your talk to the position, the audience they’re at. And I think that’s so important to kind of foster engagement, but also to show the audience that you, you care about how they’re receiving. So you care about their experience?

John Ball
Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things that come up over time, and again, in many of the conversations I have with speakers, and that’s about reasoning with a lot of professional comedians as well, who I’ve been speaking to, and is about the connection part of that connection with the audience. So with your topics, what would be the ways that you’d like to start that connection with your audience?

Esi Hardy
That’s a good question, as so I’m just trying to think so I mean, generally, I know the audience, I know that the type of audience before I go in. And but I will start I mean, a lot of people have the story, their story that they tell I don’t have a story, specifically, and but I will start by telling them who I am and why, in a way that I feel justified to be here talking to them. So I might usually, you know, if it’s face to face, they’ll see that I’m sitting in a wheelchair. So my justification for talking about service inclusion is that I’m a wheelchair user, but obviously lived experiences only one part of it. So I also tell them about my professional background, and what I’ve been doing, or if it’s appropriate, what other businesses and companies I’ve worked for, so that they can relate. When I’m about to tell them with, Oh, she must know what she’s talking about, because she’s talked to x, y, and Zed, but also in our sector. And then when I’m discussing a subject, I will try and relate it back to something in their life. And so for example, if I’m talking about and how to make a venue, inclusive and accessible for disabled people, I’ll ask them to think about what it feels like when they go into a building. And people don’t walk up and greet them, or they go into a building and they didn’t really know where to go. Or, or as I said, or they go into building and they need to learn they can’t find the facilities, or the facilities are locked, and it helps them to kind of thing Oh, yeah, no, that’s nothing because I think some people think, Well, I’m not disabled, I can’t possibly relate to one dislike for a disabled person. But actually, you can experience being excluded, therefore for my talk, because that’s relatable to you. So if I’m talking about business strategies, For example, I might then relate that strategy back to my own barriers of the strategies and the processes not working for me, and why it’s so important to change it, and then what the benefits are.

John Ball
Yeah, and which, which is born and we make it relatable, you make a unit part of the universal experience, things we can all connect with. And that’s important. So that’s engaging. That’s the connection part. That makes a lot of sense.

Esi Hardy
But I also think it’s important. I mean, I use humour a lot in my talks. And I also, I mean, not practically my trumpet, but humour is not easy comedy is one of the hardest skills in acting. And but I’m quite lucky that I’ve got quite comic timing. And I’m quite good at the one-liners, and humour helps to engage with people. So people, they’re a bit standoffish. I think, all this has nothing to do with me. And I can make them laugh, and then they can still think this has nothing to do with me. But that was funny. And then later on, they’ll be thinking, that was funny. Oh, I get it now. So by putting in that, that bit of humour, every now and then it sticks with people, and then slowly they can process the information and it becomes relatable to them.

John Ball
Yeah, no, I agree. 100%, I talk a lot about the tools of influence and persuasion. And my podcast is called speaking of influence. And one of the best tools of influence and persuasion is humour. And, you know, with, with having a lot of conversations with professional comedians recently, and stuff that has been coming out of those conversations has been around how humour, helps us deal with things that might otherwise be a bit difficult to deal with, how relaxes people creates greater connection puts us more in alignment, we feel like we’re all part of something when we’re laughing and joining together. So yeah, really important areas and no harm in blowing your own trumpet about that. And being prepared and making people laughing. That’s a great thing. It’s, it’s not always easy to do, which is why a lot of people don’t even try for humour. But it’s actually not that hard to be at least a little humorous, just to be light and playful in your presentations. And it certainly helps if we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Right?

Esi Hardy
Absolutely. Yeah, I agree. And I think also, it’s so important to recognise and talk about the fact that it’s not going perfectly, so we’re only human, nothing ever goes perfectly. If your presentation isn’t on the right page, or whatever, you don’t talk about it, don’t ignore it, because everybody can see it. And so why not kind of Foucault, you know, you make sure that that you understand that this is happening. So I use PowerPoint, essentially, to remind myself what I’m going to say next. And so I have slides with minimal information on it, but they’re really a jumping-off point for me to start talking. So if I gave you my slides, you would be like, I don’t know what you’re talking about Esi. But with me talking, there will just be a reminder. And I have to look at my slides, because I have a terrible memory. And I always say I promise I wrote this myself. And because you know, other people, it would look like oh, I’m just reading somebody else’s work, because I can’t remember what’s coming up. So yeah, acknowledging that things aren’t perfect is really important.

John Ball
That’s really good. Because I’m interesting enough, you may have come across this before. But there’s something called the presenting world, a visual stack. And it’s a memory technique for learning your presentation, where you create images that represent different parts of your presentation. And you can then go and link them up, make some wild crazy story that links these parts of your visual stack. And, and even make it as images that represent that. And in the slide, using a slideshow to do that makes a lot of sense. Because it’s the cues that you need, that that fit with what you’re talking about and makes sense as a visual representation. But as you say, don’t give everything away, but they keep you on track for what you’re talking about. And those cues. So rather than just having those pictures in your head, make them part of your slideshow. Very clever. I like it.

Esi Hardy
Yeah. And I think it’s better. I mean, obviously horses for courses, but I personally think it’s better than having prompt cards, because you have to look down at your prompt cards, which is taking your way from the engagement of your audience, because obviously one of the most important things is eye contact. So it’s taking you away from having the eye contact. So it’s when you’re looking on this slide for these prompts. And it’s almost like you’re all in it together.

John Ball
Have you found that since COVID, and quarantines and things that pretty much has been online presentations and what kind of differences has it made for you?

Esi Hardy
So yes, it’s all been online. So the first one I did that rather than a training session, a talk that I did online, was I think it’s quite early on, I think it was April. And I am used to delivering half a day to whole day courses for about 16 to 20 delegates on my own in a room. And I was so much more exhausted after one hour of delivering an online presentation than I would have been delivering a day’s training session, because there was no engagement and there was no interaction. So I was staring at the screen with my PowerPoint presentation, where I couldn’t hear anyone, everyone was muted, and I couldn’t see anyone. And that’s really hard, because I get my energy for delivering from my audience. So I see my audience, and I see how they’re reacting to my material. And then I adapt accordingly. Either I tone it down, or I ham it up, or I do whatever I need to do to deliver that message and to engage, and to make sure it’s tangible. So if I can see that people didn’t quite get it, I couldn’t give them another example, if I could see they have got it, and I can move on. I can also ask them questions. And in this particular presentation, I couldn’t do any of that. And it was absolutely exhausting. And you would see a non-speaker would think, oh, that’s really easy, because you just talk and you don’t, you’re not gonna be stopped by questions that you have to think about. But it’s really, really hard for somebody that’s used to engaging and interacting with an audience. So yeah, it’s, it’s been challenging, but you know, like everybody we’ve been learning. And so one of the things I find really helpful, and I think this is a good point of practice, anyway, is to, to kind of tell your audience what’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen. So I send when I’m running training sessions, I send a pre-training, how to guide out to them. So if they, I mean, most of us are quite good at zoom these days. But there are some people that are still not working on computers, short power. And so you know, it’s really helpful to send that how to go, this is how you join the meeting, this is what’s going to happen when you’re bad, this is how we’re going to engage. This is how you can engage with me, giving them as many options that are possible for them to engage in the way that they feel confident. And then also at the beginning, I have housekeeping. And the housekeeping is, okay, so please meet yourself when you’re not talking. And please be aware that I also have access requirements. So I’m not going to get to the chat box as quickly as somebody without limited dexterity would. And then all of those things to relay worries and anxiety of my audience members.

John Ball
Right, so as someone like yourself who’s like a natural performer, then I appreciate that you really like having that feedback and the energy for someone like me, maybe not quite such a natural performer, but who has been working mostly online for at least the last 10 years. And that wasn’t a transition I needed to make I was already doing it. But I do remember. And that when I first started doing webinars and large group coaching sessions on the legs, that there was a, there was a lot to learn in terms of differences, like big differences to live presentations. And certainly there, when I first started doing webinars, the functionality that we have now was not there. audience interaction really was super limited. And there was only a few things that people could really do. And like some of the events, none at all. And that those systems are still I guess they’re still around to some degree. But when you feel like almost like you’re talking to finance, I just had to remind myself how many people are on the call, because you could always see how many people were there. And like these, I have to assume these people are listening. I think one of the services I mean was GoToWebinar used to tell you when people weren’t being attentive, and they’re no longer allowed to do that. Because of privacy. breaches, which is kind of the summary that was really useful, because people clearly come on to these sorts of and then made me probably people listening to us, I was there listening or watching, they’re checking their phones and whatever else if you’re not familiar, fair enough. But when you’re on a webinar, that you really want people to be paying attention. So you don’t really want people shifting off to Facebook or emails or whatever else it is you want people to be attentive on the webinar. And so it was nice to have that as a tool to be able to bring people back and say, you know, let’s get everybody attentive on listed as attentive. Now that’s not there. But again, that was the only way to measure it there. Now. There’s a lot more things I’ve had to learn in terms of interaction, zoom offers a lot more interactive interactivity. And but how good is, generally, this online world for accessibility for people with disabilities?

Esi Hardy
So, it’s getting better. And I’ve had throughout the months of lockdown, and then into kind of social distancing, and still remote working. But for many disabled people, not all, but for many disabled people, they felt as though they can be more engaged, and been more included and involved in the conversation. And I mean, if you take a disability out of it for a second, and I attended a meeting in Liverpool the other day, I wouldn’t have done that, if it was live, if it was face to face, because it’s too far away to go for a two-hour meeting. But online, it took me two seconds to type in a URL code and go straight there. And I think if you relate that to disabled people, so when as a, as a physically disabled person, when I go to an event live, I have to think about the access, how am I going to get there? What’s gonna happen when I get there? Is the loo going to be accessible for me? How am I going to get from the front door to the venue? What happens at the buffet lunch? Who is going to put some food on my plate? Because I’m always thinking about lunch?

How am I going to get out? Is there going to be taxis? What time is my trade? Are they going to be trading platform stuff to help me on the train? Or do I need to organise my support when I get back is the support going to be there when I need it? All of these it What am I going to wear, I can’t wear a coat. So what make it aware that it’s going to be warm enough, but it still makes me look presentable. And I’m not going to be too warm in the building. All of these things don’t matter when it’s online, because I could essentially be in my pyjamas and wear a nice looking top and rock up and still be my engaging and expert self or annoying talking to myself whichever way you look at it. And but you know, in fit lots of disabled people that is the case. So all the barriers that presented as prevented them getting to the online to the meeting beforehand to take it away. And I think a lot of the platforms are thinking about accessibility. So for example, and zoom, have a closed caption option that somebody can type in the closed captions, whilst people are talking. So if there is a deaf or hard of hearing person in the audience, they can still access the meeting. And that was something that I tapped into, in the summer when I was doing a bunch of webinars. And a participant contacted me and she said, because I invited people to tell me if they had access requirements, they needed to be me, tip for me to be aware of. And this one participant contacted me and said, can I provide closed captions. And then I was able to source a company that was able to type for me, and use the closed caption service on zoom to do the typing. And I happen to know that in beta, they do have an option where automated closed captions can come up. And so as we’re talking, the closed captions would come up on the bottom of the screen. Right. And but there’s loads of things that hosts and platforms can tap into to make it more accessible. But there’s also a lot of things that people can do hosts can do without having to buy into a service or to download anything that they can just do as part of their presenting staff. So like before, when I was talking about how to engage in a meeting that helps people who perhaps have mental health issues that are struggling with confidence, or struggled with anxiety to know ahead of time, what’s going to happen. And I’ll say what the break is this, this is when the break is and I’ll put in more breaks is somebody perhaps who has ADHD or something who got it down for or can’t concentrate for too long. And they know when the regular breaks are coming up. And I also give people lots of options to engage. So I’ve seen because I’ve attended lots of meetings myself on the confirmation email that says, Please engage this way. And I think well, I can’t so I’m just going to do it my way anyway, but that’s because I’m confidence. And but lots of people will think well, I can’t so I won’t go. And so what I do is I say these are all the options you have to engage. Please bear in mind my access requirements. So if your option is to type in the chat box, I will get to you but it will take me a bit longer. If you feel confident to please raise your hand or just start talking because also there are people that can’t press the buttons or can’t physically raise their hands Because of their disability, so I’ll say if possible, could you meet yourself or raise your hand. But if it’s not possible, please just talk. And so, so making it as inclusive for everybody as possible. And what I find and not making it mandatory that people turn their videos on, I think that’s so important. Oh, you must turn your video on Well, why? I mean, it helps the house, but it’s not about us as hosts, it’s about our audience, it’s about making our audience feel comfortable. And what I find is when I say I’d love you to turn your camera on, but I completely understand if you’d rather not, throughout the event people, because I’ve set that out, and I’ve said, you can do what you would like, I’m not going to dictate to you how to engage, people begin to feel more confident. And they do turn their cameras on eventually.

John Ball
This means meeting people where they’re at for sure. Now, one of the things that I run regular group coaching calls, and zoom has this wonderful breakout rooms feature. And so we like to put people in and I do say to people on the calls you, if you have a camera and you want to put it on, you’re very welcome to but you don’t need to, in the breakout rooms, it might be nice, because you’re going to be with a small group of people. So if you can, you might feel more comfortable to do it there and get to know people who are on the programme with you. And but that’s been a really nice function. But because people can communicate and feel more comfortable communicating in those smaller groups. And when they come back into the main room area, as it were, they communicate more in the main room as well. So for me as a, as a host, it’s been a real benefit, to have that, and also noticing that people are feeling more included more part of it, who might not otherwise have shared or interacted very much on those kinds of calls and programmes. So I really like that, do you other than for yourself? Because you know what to do? Do you come across some examples of businesses now? Or maybe businesses who you work with? Who are doing it? Well? And are helping get the inclusivity? Right.

Esi Hardy
And, yes, so off the top of my head, I don’t know the names. But yes, there are I mean, I’ve been to quite a few diversity inclusion conferences and sessions throughout lockdown, where they have put those things in place. So the closed captions are part of the service already there. It’s always very helpful when the organisation is bigger than a couple of people to have the host. And then somebody in the background doing all the technical things. It’s sorting out the breakout rooms, making sure that the questions are being allocated and things like that. And that helps as well. And, again, I know what I’m not just talking about myself, but one of the things that I struggle with, is when the questions need to be put in the chat box, I can’t type very fast. So five minutes to the end, then when having questions are busy typing out, my questions were finished. And so what I have noticed is a lot more companies are saying, type your questions throughout. And then we’ll make sure that we ask them so that people have time. And then also put your hand up if you’d like to answer the question. But I went to one the other day, I think it was by sky, which is Sushil care Institute for excellence. So you would hope that they would know what they’re doing with engagement and accessibility. And they actually said, anonymously, please let us know if you prefer to put things in the chat box. Or if you prefer to speak through to your access requirements, because then we can tailor how we interact with you to what you need. So actually, they’re not just saying blanket, do what you like, but saying actually, individually, please tell us what we can do to make this easier for you. Which really helped and it helps with engagement as well, because it helps the audience to understand. But who cares about that experience. And it’s just a little thing that also makes life easier for the host. But you’re going to go back there, I’m talking about it now because it was such a good experience. Right? It’s something some people’s minds, it’s a good presenter, thought about their audience needs and how they’re going to experience the session.

John Ball
For you then when you turn up to an event online or in person where people are really thought about these things. How does that feel?

Esi Hardy
It feels great. I think, for me inclusion, the difference between accessibility inclusion and accessibility is helping somebody to access inclusion is making sure that once they have access, that they feel part of the community. And so for me, inclusion, apart from what I just said, inclusion is feeling as though I can do things the way I want to do when I want to do it and how I want to do it. And so that for me is really important. Say that kind of how would you like us to interact with you this is what’s going to happen, which would be easier for you means that I can still have a conversation with four other Joe and Jean Bloggs in the room, but in the way that works for me, so I’m not on the backfoot, I don’t feel that, okay, I’ll join you in a second, when I’ve been able to press these five buttons, I need to press and I can do it now. And there doesn’t have to be an obvious difference.

John Ball
It’s, it’s a big thing that I think, I’m glad to know it’s getting better. And I’m glad though, that the when inclusivity is happening when people are actually being candid about that, that we all we’re all going to benefit from it, because there are potentially a lot of insights and contributions that are otherwise getting missed out on because we’re not having equal access for everybody, we just kind of sitting there sometimes setting things is just one thing. And this is the one way you can interact. And, and so we don’t know, in those situations, what we may be missing out on but some people are very aware, and what we’re missing out on and it’s maybe struggling, they’re feeling that they’re not just not being heard or pay attention to. And one of their know, for me personally, but one of the biggest things generally in life that people kind of hate or maybe even feel worried about is feeling ignored, feeling left out of things. And, you know, I know for myself, I’ve never liked that experience. And you know, we know, not even necessarily exclusion, but just being ignored not having any attention paid to that when we do that we actually are empowering people by including them by acknowledging people and their needs and, and bringing more in that we’re setting up a better system of equity for people and, and more opportunity as well, because that’s really what it comes down to. You’re a great example of like not being held back by limitations that you could easily have just accepted in the past and saying, I can’t do that. You know, you’ve gone well beyond that. You’ve even started your own podcast. So tell us about that.

Esi Hardy
So ‘Part of me’ podcast is the peer to peer podcast where I interview other disabled people on their experiences of the workplace. And the workplace for them could be anything. And so I have had a an Olympian or Paralympian tennis player. I’ve had an Olympian journalist, and I have had tried to think of some more. I’ve had the business owner, and I’ve had a rugby like a para Paralympian rugby player. So also across the spectrum of workplaces, I’ve had it I’ve had people that work in offices, and data entry jobs all the way to strategic positions. So a range of, of people that work in the workplace. So they talk about their own experiences. They taught they give advice to managers who might be managing disabled people in the workplace. And they give advice to other disabled people as to how to feel confident and empowered in the workplace to do what they want to do and how they want to do it. And they talk a little bit about customer service and customer experience. So how they experience barriers or opportunities as disabled customers and the advice that they gave to business owners in that setting.

John Ball
Yeah, well, great. And so how long is your podcast been running for?

Esi Hardy
So it started I think, in November 2008. And the first season ended September 2019. So it’s on a break. And because the next season I’m going to be interviewing people within business, within the strategic DNI diversity and inclusion positions, about why DNI diversity inclusion for disabled people is important. And what they’re doing to make strategic change and to be more inclusive of disabled people. And so far I’ve interviewed the diversity inclusion lead for sorry police and also somebody else that works for an organisation called Global giving. And that’s a charity that supports disabled people across the world, mainly in African countries.

John Ball
Great. My general experience as a podcaster is that other podcast is not really something people go into because they think it’s gonna make them successful or that we did because we love it and because we care about all we talk about, what what are your favourite things about doing the podcast yourself?

Esi Hardy
Talking and hearing other people’s experiences as well. It’s really good. I think it’s great that I mean, as I said, interview as your audience listeners, and viewers with the head on this podcast, I do like talking about myself. And I do use my own experience, but also it’s so important to hear experiences of others. And because I mean, I always am anyone disabled person. And people say to me, oh, we want you to come in and tell you tell us about your experience. And I think, well, that’s not helpful, because I can tell you all about what you can implement to make it find me, but then the next person will come along, and you’ll have to start all over again. So why don’t I give you a general overview of the barriers that disabled people face. So I think it’s so helpful to hear from different points of view, because it reinforces that everybody is different, and every buddy is unique, and there’s no access, there’s no support plan that’s gonna support everybody. And, and also, you know, I like, I like, I like promoting it, I like people engaging, and then contacting me, I get quite a few emails to say, I really enjoyed this podcast, can I find out a bit more about this, and then I find post on to that person, if appropriate. And, and also, you know, for me, yet, it’s not a big moneymaker. But it has drawn in some business for me as well. So people that listen to the podcast, that then might get in touch and say, Oh, I really like this, we can be able to help us with this that you talked about in this episode. And it’s also really good for making connections. So you and I linked up, because we both sell that we were podcast hosts, and I’ve made loads of connections and contacts, that have either become associates of friends or just friends in general, through being in the podcasting world.

John Ball
Yeah, and I know, for me, personally, my network has expanded massively since doing the podcast. And some of that is just by actively reaching out to other podcasters or people who want to be podcast guests. And being active in certain communities. There are many groups and places where you can connect with people who are interested in podcasting as podcasters, or as hoping to be guests. And so yeah, it’s been very powerful. And I personally find it to be a very friendly given clients that people do it. Generally the podcasting because they love it. You know, some people do get money and do really well with their podcast financially. But I think the vast majority of people aren’t in it for that. And I think I’ve heard Tim Ferriss and maybe a few others say before, now, if you’re going to start a podcast, don’t do it because you think it’s going to make you rich or famous, do it because you enjoy it, you love it, otherwise, you won’t stick with it, because it is a bit of a long road. But it can be a lot of fun, it can be really powerful. And it gives a voice and a lot to come back to than what you’re saying. Because I think the stories are so important, like hearing people’s stories, gives us that opportunity for empathy, to be able to put ourselves in that position or say, or at least I understand that or get, I hadn’t considered that before. Because you get to you get a sense of an experience of the world that is outside of your own. And sometimes one of the reasons why people are aren’t always appreciative, all and always actively seeking to improve on their inclusivity is just not having that awareness and not having that understanding, which makes hearing people’s stories really powerful. So giving out your platform as your podcast as a platform for that is a powerful thing. Because it’s our stories that really break down barriers and help people to get a sense of what’s really going on and have that awareness. Now more so when we click to meet and when you actually know people in those situations, it makes it even more powerful. But certainly a great way to do that on a bigger scale is by exchanging our stories and our experiences, which is fantastic.

Esi Hardy
I think so yeah.

John Ball
Great. And so one of the things that when I see a list of things that would be good to talk about you said was influencing, influence and empowerment. We talked a fair bit about empowerment. But let’s talk a little bit about the influence side of things if that’s okay, and why that’s important for you and where that comes into what you do?

Esi Hardy
So I think there’s two sides of that. Again, as you say, we’ve already talked about empowerment side, but I think the influence and empowerment, they work hand in hand when it comes to supporting, in my case disabled people. But in other cases, other people that might need a bit of help to have confidence in themselves in any way by seeing somebody else doing it and by saying, well, Should we try it this way? Who said you can’t do that? I don’t believe that. Let’s try it. It supports them and I do think influence and empowerment work hand in hand together. And also it works in business as well. So I think that businesses are getting better. So there are a lot, for example, the top 50 inclusive companies. So a website called inclusive companies every year, and promotes the top 50 inclusive companies that they’ve in the UK that they’ve audited to say, they have inclusive practices, and they are an inclusive company. And then they, they publish out their website. And then the big companies can publish it, and then the best material and everything. And if people are not doing it for anything more than the business case, as an overview, it looks good. It’s a good PR platform to be inclusive of disabled people. And then they can see the other companies have done that. So the list of names includes people like Bloomberg, and BT, and Auto Trader, so you click on it and think, Oh, you know, I didn’t need to worry about this diversity and inclusion, politics. And then you see auto trade, and you think, Oh, my God, Auto Trader is doing it, I’ll do it too. And then I think once you start doing it, then you realise it’s not as complicated as you think it was. And also, it brings you lots of benefits, both from the business case, and also just from the professional and personal point of view that we’ve discussed in this podcast. But I think influence is so important and influences the speaker is so important. So again, it goes back to making it relatable. So being able to relate to your audience and saying, I know, you know what you might be thinking, I’ve been there too. So again, if I can talk about myself for a minute, so when I deliver training, and I want people to be confident, and they want to be competent with the language they use when describing disability, because people are terrified of saying the wrong thing. And so I say, so what are the words that you think are appropriate and appropriate to use? Silence, and they will look at each other, you know, if we’re in a room, and don’t know, so for example, when I was 19, my friend and I used to call each other sparkies. And they go, Oh, well, they fancy said that, then I’m gonna say, Oh, these things. And then the conversation goes on for about 14 minutes, which is what I plan to do. But I think that that as a host, we can influence or a speaker we can influence and by helping people to understand that we really relate to where they’re coming from. So I know this is difficult, I know that this is challenging, I know that you have lots of other priorities. This, I know this, because I went through it too. But these are the steps that I took. And these are the benefits and look at these other high profile businesses, or high profile people that went through exactly the same journey and look at where they’ve come from. And I was talking to quite a high profile client the other day, and one of the things that won them over was telling them that they could be an influencer, if you do this the right way. And when we do these things, then you can influence and I saw his eyes literally light up, be in it’s not a bad thing. To be honest with yourself and say, I want to be an influencer because it helps drive that business’s profile, or helps drive your personal profile. And breaking influence is so important for change. And by saying this is you know, here I am, you respect me, or whoever it is, you respect me, you look up to me, I went through exactly the same and the same thought process as you did. This is what I’ve got, you can do it too, if you just take these steps. Yeah. And we’ll do it together.

John Ball
Yeah, great.

Esi Hardy
exactly example with disability confidence, which is a government scheme to support businesses to put in accessibility and inclusive processes, into their recruitment and into their business as usual strategies. And one of the things that they do is when you become disability confident, you join, you can join Facebook groups, you can join LinkedIn groups. And then there’s three tiers. So on the second and third tier, you’re actually being assessed and audited by other businesses that have reached that level. So you’re not working with an external person that doesn’t really know anything about it. You’re working with people that have already been through it. And they can say, I’ve had the struggle. This is what we did when we struggled in this area. This is what we found work for us.

John Ball
Yeah, we want these kinds of things to be Business Standard. Really.

Esi Hardy
Exactly. Yeah. But the starting point of all of that is influence. Look at me, I’m this massive multi-national billion-dollar business you could you know, and I want to do this. So surely you want to do it too? Oh, yes, I do. Because I want to be seen in the same light as that business.

John Ball
Yeah, sure, yeah. That those are the businesses that kind of one of that morally leading the way for everyone else and saying, you know what this is, this isn’t just something that that some people should do. This is something that everyone should do, and it matters. And it should matter to everyone. Now, we’re more likely to value doing business with people who share these values as well. We know that we generally like to spend time within our personal lives with people who have similar values to us. Well, yeah, very different values. It’s very similar in the business world as well. We want to do business with people who share our values, ideally, as well. And we don’t want to do business with people who don’t. So it’s really important stuff. And the inputs are definitely very, very, very powerful. They’re what would be based on less than what you said, it might just be recapping, really, but what would be your vision for where you would like things to get? And how far away Do you think probably we are from now maybe just in the UK at least?

Esi Hardy
Well, I think first of all, I want the second part, I don’t think we’re going to get to fully inclusive workplaces or fully inclusive societies in our lifetime. And obviously, you’re a lot longer than I am. So in my lifetime, I think it’ll be like still hundreds and hundreds of years away. And but what I want what I would like to get to, and specifically, well, new actually not specifically aimed just a business, but specifically aimed at society as a whole, which obviously encompasses business is a place where everybody no matter what your beliefs, what your values, obviously, if you’re not murderer, and what your beliefs, what your values, what your lifestyle and your lifestyle choices, and everything else that encompasses all of those protected characteristics and all of those underprivileged characteristics. And is that people feel as though they can be who they are, with the support there, and do what they want to do successfully without having to plan five steps ahead about Okay, what am I doing? How am I going to present myself that this person, what am I going to do to get on this bus? How am I going to explain this, there should be no need for that it should be done. So you should be able to walk in a restaurant, I should be able to as a wheelchair user, go into a restaurant and say, I would like to sit at this table and not have to worry about somebody saying I’m sorry, I lift is broken? Well, we don’t have a lift on the second floor. I can just go where I want to go or I don’t have to call a few towels as long say, Would you have any accessible rooms available because the rooms are accessible, or nine times out of 10? The rooms are going to be accessible, and they’re going to have the things I need. And if they’re not there, they can be sourced by the time I get there. Or I’d love to come and present your session. Is this accessible? Oh no, well, then I can’t. And the luckily that hasn’t happened often where I couldn’t take an opportunity because of the accessibility and my speaking career. But it’s happened a couple of times, we’ve had some really good opportunities presented, but I couldn’t do it because it hasn’t been accessible to me. And obviously, I’m talking specifically about disability. But this covers every characteristic, and no characteristics should have to and think about how people are going to accept them into whatever community that is they would like to be a part of it should be given that people are going to be accepted and celebrated for who they are.

John Ball
Hopefully, but you know how it is people don’t like people who are too different to them. And we tend to sort for differences more than similarities. And I think that one of the things that I hope by now I have to work on myself sometimes but is just always going to at least be kind in all of your interactions. And if you’re always going to be kind and have respect for people, and then you’re not going to go too far wrong. You might not get it right every time man or be perfect on that. But if you actually check in with people, be kind to them, ask the question, be supportive, and respectful for people, then people will usually tell you how you can help many people will usually appreciate that as well. We could all do with that bit more kindness to each other in all our interactions. And sometimes it’s just that those are more automated responses that we have more naturally done in our past. That’s what we need to do is take care. Take a moment to think before we respond before we act, but I’ve already given some really good some

Esi Hardy
I just said, because I completely agree with you. And I think that they can, but you said kindness, but I would add on to that compassion. And I think if we can be compassionate, and as you say, Take time to listen and ask the questions. And it’s so important, because as you say, first of all, it supports people to understand that you want to know the answer. As long as the person asking the question and then waiting for the answer. They’re not looking somewhere else, or changing their body language, but they’re actually waiting for the answer. and compassion. Because when we assert compassion, it’s easier to think, Okay, what can I do about the situation, and because you’re actually taking time to think about what it’s like for the other person. And I think a lot of things to do with disability inclusion, especially, and any other inclusion actually just takes a bit of compassion, and a bit of understanding, because the minute you start to think about what it might be like somebody else, the minute you start saying, Okay, what can I do differently to make it better? And then also ask it after asking that question, you know, how can I help? What support would you like, what could have been improved, be prepared to do something about his action, that feedback he would given. So it’s not just about filing it in your brain or filing it in a piece of paper and putting it away in a drawer? It’s actually this is really helpful, what can we do to make this an actionable change in our business, organisation, life, whatever it is, listen to people and actually encouraging them. So telling them that you would like to know their feedback. And because not everybody’s going to tell you, I will tell you, you know, if somebody asked me to fill in a feedback form, I will tell them or else don’t give me the feedback form. But not everybody’s going to do that. Because they’re worried about other people’s feelings. So making sure it’s the person asking the question, but you’ve set the premise for the person to understand that you want to hear the honest and critical truth, obviously, you know, and apply appropriate way. And then it’s going to give them more confidence, to say, Oh, actually, this was really good. But I think this could have been improved. And this is a way you could do it. Not everybody’s gonna have a solution to give you but actually saying what’s not right. And it could be a small thing that might be immaterial to the person asking, but could make an entire difference to that person telling you, and, and then showing them what you’re doing about it. Because so many people are disenfranchised by the fact that they give their feedback, and then nothing’s done. And it comes over and over again, it’s actually written in business theory, that in order to to have positive data, you don’t respond to people’s complaints. And then you can put your positive outcome because it’s all gone away. But actually, what it does is it disenfranchises the person, so they won’t do it next time. So even if you can’t continue that, continue what they suggested, because you don’t have the resources, you can tell them why you can thank them for their time.

John Ball
Yeah, I’m sorry, I was going to ask whether what you would recommend for us to be able to do on an individual level that would make a difference here. And I think he just answered it beautifully. So. So thank you for that. And people may want to get a bit more insight into what they might be able to do, especially if their business owners are involved in corporations that would like to improve their accessibility for people, how can they find out more about you and what you do?

Esi Hardy
So they could go my website, which is celebrating disability dot code at UK, and making that I’ve got lots of resources on there. So in this summer, so May and June, I hosted about eight webinars, and it was exhausting. And but all those recordings of the webinars are on the website so they can have look at them. I have lots of articles that they can look at. And they can connect with me through LinkedIn, which is my name Esi Hardy, and they can contact me. So through the website, they can send me an email because of time to chat with me. And just an informal exploration chats about, you know, any questions they might have, and they can join my mailing list as well where I send out inclusion bites, I call them disability inclusion bytes that go out once a week to help people with their disability inclusion strategy in their organisation, and it helps them define the difference between things like and diversity and inclusion and accessibility and inclusion.

John Ball
I’ve certainly learned some insightful things from you today and I really enjoyed the conversation. And are there any additional books or resources that you might recommend that either relate to This will just like a good book recommendation that you’d like to give out to people?

So a colleague of mine, Roland Chesters has written a book called ‘Ripples from the edge of life’. And it’s his experience of having HIV and AIDS and an AIDS-defining illness. So the book is about his experience, but also 13 other people’s experience of having HIV and AIDS-defining illness. And I think it’s brilliant, it’s insightful, it’s powerful. I don’t use the word, inspirational for lots of reasons that we didn’t have time to guarantee. But it’s insightful and powerful. It’s kind of heartwarming and heartbreaking. And I very much recommend that you can find it on Amazon dot code at UK.

I’ll put a link to that. And the other things in the show notes as well, as we wrap things up for today. And what would be the thought that you would most like to leave people with at the end of our episode together?

Esi Hardy
I think I think it’s what we talked about before compassion, and empowerment, I think that It doesn’t matter what position people are in. And whether they’re in a powerful position within an organisation, or they’re a person who doesn’t have a job at the moment and listening to whatever be it other people are saying and going out of their way to learn other people’s experiences, to kind of put into their own and ask people if they would like support and but understanding that not everybody wants support and mainly were struggling but they’re managing fine. Another thing that I always say is, you know, I live like I’m struggling because my hands are all over here and I put a face overconcentration face, which is a bit terrible. But actually, I’m managing fine and actually being interrupted is quite annoying. And but always offering that support but be willing to hear what the answer is, and asking people what could be done better if they work was in a position to change things.

John Ball
Excellent. I see. It’s been a real pleasure speaking today. Thank you to my guest Esi Hardy, we’re back with more great guests coming up soon on the show, as well as some individual episodes. So come and check those out in the future. Thank you Esi.

Esi Hardy
Thank you very much for inviting me.

John Ball
Thanks for tuning in. Remember to like and subscribe if you haven’t already and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Why not get yourself a copy of my new ebook the five key beliefs of bulletproof business speakers available from present influence.com if you’re able to join us next week, we’re doing something a bit different at 11am European time and 10am UK time on the fourth of December for the 4th of December, I will be having a chat with Jeremy Nicholas, who is a great presenter very experienced presenter and certainly has lots of TV experience after-dinner speaking and more besides the great event speaker and a good humorist as well. In fact, he teaches he runs a course in humour and presentation skills. So I am really looking forward to having that conversation with him. hope you can join us live. If not the episode will be going out the same day later that day, so it’s going to be my freshest episode. With a quick turnaround. If you can join us live, Follow me on LinkedIn, JohnABall, you’ll find me that on LinkedIn connect with me and you will be able to tune in live 10am next Friday the fourth of December at 11am European time with Jeremy Nicholas live on LinkedIn and say episode coming out the same day. So look out for that. See you next time.

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